Akintunde Oyebode: You only live once (YNaija Frontpage)

This is the story of Nigeria, a country inhabited by people used to long suffering.

“With every breath you take you’re dying; with every step we take we’re falling apart. If we only had one chance we’d breathe; let’s take the chance right now and scream. You only have one life; for a very short time. So make every second divine.” Those words were lifted from You Only Live Once, a song released in 2011 by the heavy metal group, Suicide Silence. It is a reminder of our mortality, and the need to make the seconds count.

Some might remember the South African photo journalist, Kevin Carter, born in South Africa during apartheid. He had journeyed through life and suffered from depression when he decided to become a photo journalist, his way of exposing the brutality of apartheid. In 1993, while on a trip to Sudan, he took a picture of a child trying to reach a feeding centre as a vulture landed nearby; that picture won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. Later that year, Kevin Carter went to an area he used to play as a child and took his life. In his suicide note, he spoke of being hunted by trigger happy mad men, executioners, starving or wounded children and corpses. What he never mentioned was how a picture he took forced the world to pay attention to famine and suffering in Sudan. Though he died a troubled man, he bequeathed a lot of his burden to the world. Some adults in Sudan must be grateful that his photos contributed to their survival.

While Kevin Carter was committing suicide in a car, a Nigerian man started a similar journey in Lagos for remarkably different reasons. M.K.O. Abiola was one of Nigeria’s richest men, and a known associate of the military leadership of the country. Once the election of June 12 1993 was cancelled, many Nigerians expected Abiola to cut a deal with the military and renounce his mandate. But something snapped in this man’s head: on June 11, 1994, he made his famous “Enough is Enough” declaration at Epetedo. In that historic moment, he announced a Government of National Unity, and became the rallying point for democracy in Nigeria. In our normal, sensational manner, people trooped to Abiola’s home in their thousands, vowing to ensure he was not arrested by the police. As the hours passed, people got hungry, tired or even bored. Many retired to their homes. In the early hours of the morning, the police invaded the home of Chief MKO Abiola, arrested him, and took his freedom away forever. At the time of his arrest, he was alone.

This is the story of Nigeria, a country inhabited by people used to long suffering. We complain about the state of the nation, like our parents and grandparents before us, yet we carry on living. We expect a super hero to bring the wind of change, yet we suppress the hero in each of us. We pay bribes, jump queues at the airports, help our children cheat in examinations, but want a better Nigeria.

I listened to a professor of neurosurgery explain why he refused the temptation of petro-dollars from a Saudi hospital to remain in Nigeria. He was the last of a disappearing breed and wondered who would teach the future generations if he decided to jump ship. A few years later, a stranger parked in front of my house, and asked for directions to this professor’s house. He explained amidst tears that his wife lay at death’s gates, and this man was the only one who could prevent her from crossing over. I saw hope reappear on this stranger’s face as he met Professor “D” and understood the reason this unsung hero forsook personal wealth for community service.

Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives; we can spend it complaining about our damaged country, or make personal sacrifices to take us closer to the Nigeria we all want to inhabit.

This post is dedicated to the memory of those who gave up everything to give us a chance; and the woman who defied the heavy rains on Tuesday to sweep Herbert Macaulay Way before 6am.

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (13)

  1. For some some I cant explain, this actually brought me to tears. But you're right. Personal sacrifice is whats needed and most of us are waiting for someone else to do it. Thank you for this Akin. I dont think I'll ever forget that Kevin Carter's photograph. Ever!

  2. Whatever anyone says about MKO, what he did after June 12 is redemptive.

  3. Please feel free to share, we will always start with baby steps.

    @_Ms your kind words humble me, thank you.

  4. Thank you for writing this. Would definitely share.

  5. This I'll keep to remind me to never give up doing my best.it might just open doors for someone else.

  6. A sad, but interesting, truth is that we spend most our lives (barely) surviving, instead of living. Good to see a few wake up from this slumber, and even greater credit to those that refused to be serenaded by material wealth and self-aggrandizement.

    I think this post should be forwarded to as many people as possible; printed if need be, for those that have no access to the internet. It may cause you to pause, think and, hopefully, act. It may not. But we would have helped this message along.

    Thanks again Akin.

    Suffer don tire me o!!!

  7. Akin, true, we all have the potential in us. Some show it at an early age, others you can't tell until it blooms and blossoms. Some, the potential is being incubated in obscurity until….show time. Like this young basketballer Jeremy Lin and countless others in this country en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Lin

  8. So much on point. We owe it to ourselves. Throwing trash on the road, shunting queues, 'runzing' exams etc. *sigh* This country depresses me. Btw, Mr Oyebode is my favourite YNaija frontpager. I always look forward to your articles! Well done. May you pen never run dry.

  9. Titanium,

    Someone shared his early evaluation of BRF with me recently. He said BRF showed little or no indication of the leader he has become as a young lawyer. This only shows the potential in all of us, if we imbibe the right values.

  10. In Mr. Oyebode's words:"you only live once".Don't waste it.



  11. I've always been wondering about our own personal responsibilities as citizens. Jumping a queue and embezzling billions of pension funds may vary wildly on the 'sin scale' but at the root of both, you'll find the same thing. When you're comfortable doing one, soon with the right conditions when you think nobody is watching, you'll do the 'bigger' one.

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